Undergraduate study - 2024 entry
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MA Scottish Ethnology and Celtic

UCAS code: VQ95

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Literatures, Languages and Cultures

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA Scottish Ethnology and Celtic

Uncover Scotland’s past and help shape its future, while gaining skills that you can apply to any culture.

This joint honours programme gives you the opportunity to study the languages, literatures and cultures of Scotland alongside the wider Celtic world, past and present.

A highlight of the programme is the chance to work with the rich range of materials in the School of Scottish Studies Archives. These include thousands of recordings in Scots, Gaelic, English, and dialects now extinct.

As well as our fantastic teaching staff, you will benefit from the expertise of our Traditional Artist and Gaelic Writer in Residence.

Scottish Ethnology

Ethnology is the study of the culture and traditions of developed societies. It is sometimes described as being at the intersection where history and anthropology meet.

While ethnology is commonly offered in universities across Europe, this is the only full undergraduate programme of its kind in the UK.

Focusing on Scotland, but also looking at comparative material from elsewhere, you will study the varying ways in which a modern European nation expresses itself culturally.

The programme explores questions like:

  • How do customs, beliefs, social organisation, language, music and song help to create and shape identity in the modern world?
  • How do we use and make sense of the past from within our present?
  • How can this understanding help us to shape our future?

Follow in the footsteps of fieldworkers

In the School of Scottish Studies Archives, you will explore the work of former staff and students. Since 1951, they have been capturing elements of life in Scotland's farming and fishing communities, towns and cities.

Today, the Archives run to:

  • 33,000 recordings of songs, music, stories, rhyme and verse in various languages and dialects
  • thousands of photographs and rarely-seen historic documents which capture exceptional and everyday aspects of Scottish culture and heritage

Celtic

Study Celtic at the University of Edinburgh and you will learn about extraordinarily rich cultures from the Middle Ages to the present day.

At all levels of study on our four-year joint honours programme, we offer courses in the languages, literatures, histories, and cultures of the Celtic world. This enables you to build your programme by developing your own interests in particular areas, periods and disciplines.

You have the option to study Scottish Gaelic and build up to advanced competency in the language. This gives you the skills to directly engage with primary sources, developing a deeper understanding of Scottish literature and culture.

It does not matter if you are a complete beginner in Scottish Gaelic; we stream our Year 1 classes to suit all levels of prior knowledge or none. At honours level, you can also learn a medieval Celtic language - Old Irish or Middle Welsh.

Why Edinburgh

Edinburgh has a long-established Gaelic community and a lively contemporary cultural scene.

As Scotland's capital and festival city, its collections are outstanding, as are the University's own resources for the study of Celtic and Scottish Ethnology.

National collections located close to the University's Central Area include the:

  • National Library of Scotland
  • National Museum of Scotland
  • National Records of Scotland
  • National Galleries of Scotland
  • Scottish Poetry Library
  • Scottish Storytelling Centre

From sessions in traditional bars, to conversation groups for practicing Gaelic socially, there is always something going on.

Develop skills for a range of careers

Our four-year programme is very flexible. In Years 1 and 2, in addition to your core courses, you will choose option courses from a broad list of disciplines. You can, for example, learn another language, or explore other world cultures.

In each year of study, you will gain the practical and intellectual tools to handle and interpret traditional resources, modern media and digital data.

You will specialise as you progress through your honours years, choosing from a range of courses that match your own interests, expertise and employability needs.

Graduating in this programme shows an openness to ideas and perspectives other than your own, an essential attribute in many careers and a global marketplace.

One of the most attractive characteristics of this four-year programme is its flexibility.

In Years 1 and 2, your pre-honours years, you will choose option courses from a wide range of disciplines in addition to your core subjects of Scottish Ethnology and Celtic.

As well as broadening your education and skill set, this may enable you to change the focus of your programme in Years 3 and 4, your honours years.

Year 1

Scottish Ethnology

You will study courses on:

  • Conceptualising Scotland - an introduction to the study of culture, society and tradition in Scotland
  • Creating Scotland - an exploration of Scotland's topographical, social and cultural features and their influence on each other over time

In Conceptualising Scotland, you will deconstruct competing conceptions and images of the nation through:

  • heritage
  • literature
  • folklore
  • music and song
  • visual art
  • the popular media

You will also consider cultural representation’s political context and the connections between culture and industry.

In Creating Scotland, you will gain an understanding of the diversity of Scotland's resources, the nature of its land and seascapes, the complexity of its settlement patterns, and its regional variety.

You will explore the ways in which experiences of family, community and work are manifested and expressed in different cultural forms. This involves training in appropriate academic sources and methods.

Celtic

You can choose between studying the Scottish Gaelic language and Celtic Civilisation.

Language pathway

If you take the language pathway, your course will be determined by how much Scottish Gaelic you already know.

If you have no previous knowledge, you will gain confidence in written and spoken Scottish Gaelic by taking our Gaelic 1A course.

If you are an advanced speaker, our Gaelic 1B course will develop your language skills and deepen your experience of Scottish Gaelic literature.

Civilisations pathway

The civilisations pathway (courses Celtic Civilisation 1A and 1B) seeks to place the Celtic languages of the past and present into a wider historical and contemporary context.

You will consider the impact of modern Celticness on how the past has been understood and introduced to Celtic Studies in the medieval and modern periods.

There is also the opportunity to combine the study of Celtic Civilisation with our basic language learning course, Introduction to Gaelic Language and Culture.

Option courses

You will complete your Year 1 studies with option courses chosen from a wide range offered by the University of Edinburgh.

You can, for example, opt to study a European, Asian or Middle Eastern language. We offer one of the widest ranges of languages of any UK university. The majority are suitable for complete beginners and include cultural study.

Other options include, but are not limited to, courses in:

  • linguistics and language sciences
  • business, economics and informatics
  • politics, social policy and social anthropology
  • art and architectural history
  • history, classics and archaeology
  • philosophy, divinity and law

Year 2

Scottish Ethnology

You will study courses on:

  • Scotland and Orality - an ethnological approach to verbal expression using Scotland's rich song and oral narrative traditions
  • Visualising Scotland - a critical examination of the way Scotland has portrayed itself, and been portrayed by others, through visual media

In Scotland and Orality, you will be introduced to key concepts and theories relating to the performance and transmission of oral material. Case studies will involve songs, ballads, legends and folktales drawn from the School of Scottish Studies Archives.

In Visualising Scotland, you will develop a critical understanding of the contribution made by paintings, films, documentaries and other visual media to concepts like:

  • nationhood
  • identity
  • heritage
  • tradition
  • cultural difference

Celtic

You can choose between continuing to study the Gaelic language or studying Celtic Literatures.

If you take the language pathway, you will refine your language skills and learn about linguistic structure. You will also learn more about Scottish Gaelic culture and literature, exploring verse and prose.

If you take the literature pathway, you will gain an overview of key literary genres and texts from Gaelic Scotland, Ireland and Wales from the early medieval period to the present. Texts are presented in English translation.

Option courses

As in Year 1, you will gain the rest of your credits from courses chosen from a wide range offered by the University of Edinburgh.

You can opt to continue studying a subject you took in Year 1, or choose to do something completely different.

Combined with your core courses, these options will help you gain intercultural competencies in the arts, humanities and social sciences.

Year 3

This is the first of your Honours years, when you will specialise in the aspects of Scottish Ethnology and Celtic which interest you most by choosing from a range of courses.

Depending on staff research and other commitments, our options are usually the same in Years 3 and 4, which generally gives you more choice.

Scottish Ethnology

In Scottish Ethnology, options typically enable you to specialise in one or more of traditional narrative, song, drama and music. Other courses typically include:

  • Custom, Belief and Community
  • Scottish Emigrant Traditions
  • The Supernatural World
  • Material Culture in Scotland
  • Ethnological Fieldwork Methods
  • Scotland and Heritage

Celtic

Modern courses explore literary, cultural, and historical aspects of Gaelic Scotland and Ireland - such as linguistics and sociolinguistics - from around 1600 to the present day.

If taking advanced language courses, you will learn to talk and write confidently in Scottish Gaelic about a variety of topics including current affairs and cultural issues using appropriate vocabulary, grammar and idiom.

Medieval courses introduce the Early Irish and Medieval Welsh languages and develop your study of literature, history and culture.

Year 4

This is the second of your Honours years, when you will continue to specialise.

You will also complete your dissertation, which gives you the opportunity to research a topic in depth.

If you write your dissertation in Scottish Ethnology, it can be based on either fieldwork or archival work.

If you write your dissertation in Celtic, it will be on either a modern or medieval topic depending on the pathway you have taken through the programme.

Programme structure

Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.

To give you an idea of what you will study on this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.

Programme structure (2023/24)

Our facilities

On campus

When you are on campus, you can expect to spend most of your time in the University of Edinburgh's Central Area - in class, in the library, in the archives, or in one of the University’s many social and support spaces.

The Central Area is located on the edge of Edinburgh's historic Old Town, surrounded by lots of green space.

Libraries and collections

Our resources for the study of Scottish Ethnology and Celtic are outstanding. They are largely held over three sites clustered around George Square in the University's Central Area:

  • The Main University Library and its Centre for Research Collections
  • The School of Scottish Studies Archives and its Scottish Studies Library
  • The School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) and its Celtic Class Library

Across these sites, you will find:

  • more than 400,000 rare books
  • six kilometres of archives and manuscripts
  • 33,000 recordings of songs, music, stories, rhyme and verse in Scots, Gaelic and English, as well as in dialects now extinct
  • thousands of works of art, historical musical instruments and other objects
  • thousands of photographs and rarely-seen historic documents which capture exceptional and everyday aspects of Scottish culture and heritage
  • wider ethnological material

Highlights for the study of Celtic include:

  • the Carmichael-Watson Collection
  • the Donald MacKinnon Collection
  • the David Laing Collection

Many of the University's Special Collections are digitised and available online from our excellent Resource Centre, computing labs and dedicated study spaces in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC).

Centres for research, teaching and outreach

We are founding members of Soillse, the National Research Network for the Maintenance and Revitalisation of Gaelic Language and Culture, and of Faclair na Gàidhlig, a collaborative project to publish a historical dictionary of Scottish Gaelic.

We are home to the European Ethnological Research Centre, whose primary focus is the promotion of research into everyday life and society in Scotland. Ongoing since 2011, our Regional Ethnology of Scotland Project focuses on the role that individuals’ stories and memories play in shaping and understanding history.

We are currently working on Decoding Hidden Heritages, combining qualitative analysis with cutting-edge computational methodologies to decode, interpret and curate the hidden heritages of Gaelic traditional narrative. Leading a team of five international universities, we are funded by the UK–Ireland Collaboration in the Digital Humanities programme.

Through the Gaelic Algorithmic Research Group (GARG), an international team researching modern technologies for Gaelic, we have led the development of the world’s first working Automatic Speech Recognition system for Scottish Gaelic.

Events and activities

The Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA) supports more than 300 student-led societies and clubs, and promotes opportunities with local charities through its volunteering centre.

An Comunn Ceilteach (The Highland Society) is the University’s oldest student society and organises the city’s largest annual cèilidh.

Passionate about music, literature, song and storytelling, we regularly hold events for staff, students and visiting guests to speak, perform or present research.

We also have a Traditional Artist and Gaelic Writer in Residence, a composer/musician and a writer who work with staff and students on a range of projects and performances.

In the city

Edinburgh is a world-leading festival city filled with cinemas, theatres, galleries, libraries and collections.

Many national collections are located close to the University's Central Area, making them easy to access between classes. Highlights include the:

  • National Library of Scotland
  • National Museum of Scotland
  • National Records of Scotland

In addition to the summer and winter festivals, the city has a long-established Gaelic community and a lively year-round contemporary cultural scene.

There are conversation groups for practicing Gaelic socially, fèisean for performers, and an annual festival, Seachdain na Gàidhlig.

From sessions in traditional bars, to events in the Scottish Poetry Library and Scottish Storytelling Centre, there's always something going on.

Study abroad

If international travel restrictions allow, you will have opportunities to study abroad in Year 3 through the University's international exchange programme.

How will I learn?

University is a place to plan your own goals under expert guidance, study independently and in groups, and reflect upon your learning throughout your degree.

Our approach to learning and teaching is active, inclusive and question driven, so it may be different to your experiences at school. It will help you gain the skills for life after university, and we will guide you through the steps from one phase to the next.

Depending on the size of your year group, and which option courses you take, your classes will typically fall into three categories:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • seminars

In addition to these classes, to get the most out of your courses, you will need to read widely.

We make extensive use of our audio and visual resources, and you will also be encouraged to use online materials.

Lectures

Lectures are taken by all students on a course, typically at the same time. They are delivered as interactive presentations which may involve audio-visual material.

Lectures are given by an experienced academic. They are designed to guide you through the background, questions and debates related to the topic you are studying.

Tutorials

Tutorial groups are smaller. They are also led by an academic, but here the emphasis is more on what you think about the topic yourself. So, tutorials are your chance to discuss and expand upon what you have learned in a lecture.

If you choose to study Gaelic, language tutorials give you the opportunity to develop your linguistic skills in a range of real-world tasks under the supervision of an experienced language teacher.

These classes typically cover skills such as reading, writing, listening and speaking – all of which involve learning and applying grammar.

Seminars

Seminars blend features of lectures and tutorials. Again, they are designed to encourage and enable your active participation in learning.

On some courses, you will have seminars instead of lectures, especially in your honours years (Years 3 and 4).

Support

As well as the teaching and other staff you will meet day-to-day, there are lots of ways to get help with your learning, including through the University’s Institute for Academic Development (IAD).

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed through a combination of coursework and exams.

Coursework is generally completed throughout the year, while exams take place at the end of a teaching block.

Coursework may take a range of forms to give you the opportunity to practice different skills. For example, you may be asked to:

  • write an essay, review, blog post, opinion piece or learning journal
  • respond to a piece of writing, film, or other media, including through close reading
  • give a short talk or presentation
  • record a podcast or video
  • design a poster or presentation

If studying Scottish Gaelic, your exams will include oral exams to test your spoken language skills.

In your final year, you will also complete a dissertation.

Skills and experience

Scottish Ethnology and Celtic gives you a nuanced understanding of culture and society, and how these shape our world.

When you graduate with a four-year Master of Arts degree in this joint honours combination from the University of Edinburgh, you show intellectual maturity, resilience, and flexibility.

The skills you will be able to demonstrate to employers include the ability to:

  • understand, analyse and articulate complex issues and concepts
  • handle and interpret traditional resources and digital data
  • manage your time to meet deadlines on different types of project
  • work independently and as part of a group

Opportunities at home and away

Thanks to an ever-broadening international reach, Celtic languages, literatures and cultures have a steady stream of enthusiastic new speakers and audiences.

In Scotland, particularly, developments such as the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, the creation of BBC Alba (the Gaelic digital television service), and the ongoing expansion of Gaelic-medium education have increased demand for highly-educated Gaelic speakers and specialists in Celtic culture.

The focus we place on comparative work, and on studying a range of subjects in your first two years, gives you the Intercultural Competence valued by employers around the globe.

Whether you stay in Scotland, or move elsewhere when you graduate, this degree will make you stand out.

Recent graduates have gone on to careers in:

  • education, outreach, advocacy and training
  • publishing, culture, heritage and the arts
  • journalism, broadcasting and media
  • politics, policy work, diplomacy, civil service and law
  • leisure, tourism and travel

Your transferable humanities skills and Intercultural Competence will also set you apart in sectors such as:

  • business, finance and commerce
  • communications, marketing, advertising and public relations
  • research, development and venture acceleration
  • translating and interpreting

Further study

The enhanced research skills that you develop on a four-year programme, particularly in your honours years, are valuable assets if you wish to continue studying at postgraduate level.

At the University of Edinburgh, we typically offer Masters by Research degrees in both Scottish Ethnology and Celtic Studies.

These programmes are good stepping stones to a PhD, but are equally of value as stand-alone qualifications.

Beyond Celtic and Scottish Studies, your degree will prepare you for further study in almost any humanities and social science discipline.

Careers advice

Throughout your time with us, we will encourage you to identify and hone your employability skills.

LLC has a dedicated Careers Consultant within the University's excellent Careers Service.

Through our careers service you can:

  • book one-to-one appointments and practice interviews
  • access a range of online resources
  • attend themed fairs such as the Creative and Cultural Careers Festival

Popular peer support includes Life After LLC, a panel event where you can draw inspiration from our recent graduates.

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S5 or AABB/ABBBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.

Minimum entry requirement

The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.

More information for widening access applicants

Required subjects

The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:

  • SQA: Highers: no specific Higher subjects required. Applicants with Gaelic, or a language other than English, at B, preferred. National 5s: English at C and a language other than English at B (if not at Higher).
  • A Levels: no specific A Level subjects required. Applicants with a language other than English, at B, preferred. GCSEs: English at C or 4 and a language other than English at B or 6 (if not at A Level).
  • IB: HL: no specific subjects required. Applicants with a language other than English, at 5, preferred. SL: English at 5 and a language other than English at 5 (if not at HL).

Additional requirements

Language requirement

For degrees that have a subject requirement of a language other than English, students may not use their own native language to meet this requirement. In these instances, English or an alternative language other than native will be acceptable.

Find out more about entry requirements

International applicants

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.

Entry requirements by country

International Foundation Programme

If you are an international student and your school qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to the University you may be eligible for admission to this degree programme through our International Foundation Programme.

International Foundation Programme

Mature applicants

We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.

Mature applicant qualifications

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

SQA, GCSE and IB

For SQA, GCSE and IB students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:

  • SQA National 5 at C
  • GCSE at C or 4
  • Level 2 Certificate at C
  • IB Standard Level at 5 (English ab initio is not accepted for entry)

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 5.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 176 with at least 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 62 with at least 54 in each component.

(Revised 29 August 2023 to remove PTE Academic Online)

We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.

English language qualifications must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the degree you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, PTE Academic, TOEFL or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

English language requirements

This information is part of a government initiative to enhance the material that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.

It is one of many sources of information which will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.

Please note that some programmes do not have Discover Uni data available.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for MA Scottish Ethnology and Celtic

Additional costs

Your dissertation may involve some fieldwork, depending on your topic of study. This may mean paying for travel costs.

If you prefer, you can select an archives-based project that is unlikely to have any additional costs.

There may be additional costs if you choose to study abroad in Year 3.

Funding

For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.

Fees and funding